Empathy Fellowship program

The Empathy Fellowship is designed to create a pipeline into careers in aquariums, zoos and the conservation field for communities of color and other marginalized communities that bear the brunt of environmental harm and historically haven’t reaped the benefits of the solutions proposed. The Empathy Fellowship will offer job experience in the marine conservation field, with a focus on the role that empathy can play in both marine conservation and addressing the disproportional impact of environmental degradation on communities of color and other marginalized communities.  

The one-year Empathy Fellowship will provide a cohort of participants with opportunities to learn about local marine life and conservation efforts, develop personal and professional goals, and become effective educators, facilitators and advocates for marine conservation, empathy and their communities. Fellows will culturally and linguistically reflect the community in which they will be working. Following the fellowship, the Seattle Aquarium will continue to support fellows through networking, job search advice and involvement in fellowship events.

Learn more at: Making room at the table: our new empathy fellowship program

Timeline for cohort 3:

Interested in applying for the next cohort? Check back in February 2022, when our online application opens.

Meet our current fellows:

Whitney Diggs
Whitney Diggs

Whitney (she/her) is an empathy fellow who has always had a passion for marine life and wildlife. Growing up south of Seattle, she was able to learn about the marine species in the Salish Sea region at an early age. She had opportunities to explore her environment through numerous school field trips and family outings. Studying and later working at conservation-based organizations helped her realize that conservation is the career path she wanted to take. Through this fellowship, she’s eager to build a strong working understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion and how to incorporate these practices into her work as an advocate for conservation and environmental justice. Whitney wants to help awaken an interest for our natural environment in students from the SeaTac and Tukwila communities—where she grew up—and help create opportunities that may not have been made available to them otherwise. Whitney is deeply fascinated by sea cucumbers and moon snails, and she absolutely loves dogs—especially her chocolate Lab, Kobe. In her free time, she enjoys movies, art, traveling and going to cafés. 

Gabi Esparza
Gabi Esparza

Gabi (she/her) is extremely grateful to have found a fellowship that supports her quest for conservation, community building and developing empathy as an environmental justice tool. She was born in Washington state and has Mexican and European heritage. While growing up in King County, she developed a deep love for the outdoors and realized many people feel separate from nature, which may cause them anguish and suffering. She believes that with genuine connections and compassion, individuals, societies and the natural environment will thrive. Every creature deserves to feel a sense of belonging in communities and ecosystems. Although she has worked in salmon and habitat restoration, one of her overarching goals is to give over-excluded groups a welcoming space to be themselves and have influence over decisions in conservation. Her favorite marine creature is a turtle, and in her free time, Gabi enjoys spending time with her cats, taking care of animals who don’t yet have homes, philosophical discussions, attending concerts and camping.

Suzannah Yu
Suzannah Yu

Suzannah Yu (she/ her) appreciates the opportunity to use the lens of empathy to weave together the needs of her local community with marine conservation in her role as an empathy fellow. As a lifelong resident of the Salish Sea region, she is drawn to the marine world for the rich diversity of life, endless source for wonder and a sense of belonging. Suzannah is driven by the desire of realizing a world where all of life is respected, if not celebrated. This includes those with fur, scales or fronds in all of their beautiful colors and ways of being. She is passionate about garnering empathy for marine life and inspiring lifelong engagement with the marine environment. Through her position, she looks forward to the opportunity to co-create impactful programs with her community. Her purpose is to uplift individuals of all backgrounds and empower them to be the change makers and stewards of the environment in their communities.

Suzannah has a strong affinity toward nature and can commonly be found peering in tide pools to observe the interactions of their inhabitants, cultivating a deep admiration for old-growth forests and hiking paths lined with wildflowers to the top of mountains. When found indoors, she is illustrating her daydreams onto paper and nurturing her own urban oasis with her growing jungle of house plants.

Empathy Fellowship Alumni


Astrid Moncaleano

Astrid Moncaleano

Astrid Moncaleano is an empathy fellow with experience managing projects involving collaboration partnerships among governments, nonprofits and communities. Astrid specializes in marine resources management, working determinedly to implement multicultural education programs engaging and connecting individuals from diverse backgrounds with conservation initiatives. Astrid believes that the purpose of our generation must be to take care of the environment and that is why she gathers enthusiasm, passion and motivation to learn how to pursue this commitment. Cephalopods and doggies marvel Astrid, especially her fellow Bernese mountain dog, Lulo.  Astrid enjoys hiking, fiction book-movies, podcasts, history and music.

“To make conservation actions influential and sustainable, we need to address empathy for humans from other humans to facilitate other species' connections. We must encourage and recognize the value of new perspectives, innovation and creativity offered by people from different cultural backgrounds as a way to diversify and build empathy in our organization. For Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) that belong to Latinx communities, accessing professional careers in conservation is just a possibility for other people; it is a world far from their reality. For this reason, I am developing a two-day workshop focus on the Latinx community youth between 16 to 21 years old to promote skill-building and pursue professional opportunities in the marine conservation field. Through this project, I hope to impact participants through cultural empathy and provide pathways to marine conservation careers.”
 

Jules Rader

Jules Rader

Jules (they/she) is thrilled to join the first cohort of empathy fellows! Jules is particularly excited about their empathy community action project (ECAP), a marine conservation club for LGBTQ+ youth: the Aqueerium. Finding and building community have been central in navigating their identity and finding ways to participate in collective action. Over the last few years, Jules has tutored middle and high school students and discovered their love for teaching and mentoring students. Jules is eager to prioritize environmental and climate justice in marine conservation education, and to create a space for LGBTQ+ youth to build community and take action together.

“My ECAP project is an eight-week-long, empathy-based invertebrate and marine conservation education program for LGBTQ+ youth. Each week we will host a virtual community space where LGBTQ+ youth can connect with peers, learn about nudibranchs and engage with marine conservation advocacy work. We will deliver empathy-based programming about: nudibranchs and their ecosystems; conservation issues and habitat destruction; environmental justice and conservation movements; and pro-environmental actions and conservation behaviors. We will also facilitate a panel on LGBTQ+ representation in STEM featuring LGBTQ+ aquarium and STEM-field professionals. Along with a team of peers, participants will choose one nudibranch as their team mascot and create a “TED-talk” to share why they picked it and what they have learned. The final weeks of the program will culminate in teams planning and taking action to advocate for marine conservation. This program aims to make aquarium and conservation work feel accessible and exciting for LGBTQ+ youth, who are often underrepresented in and driven away from careers in STEM fields.”

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the fellowship
How many hours per week is the fellowship?
What kind of things can I do for an empathy community action project?
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Do I have to live in the Seattle area?